I stood on the pavement, trying to see past all the hurrying people. I was a bit scared because Mum never told me what to do if this happened. Then someone grabbed my sleeve – it was one of the ladies who take the money in the shop.
‘Was that your Mum?’ she asked. I nodded. I was trying not to cry.
She didn’t seem to know what to do next either, so we both stood there looking round. Then another lady came out of the shop, and the shouty man who had chased Mum came walking back towards us. He was panting like Nana’s dog and looked really cross. I still couldn’t decide which way to run, so I didn’t move. The ladies and the man were talking. The cars were noisy so I couldn’t hear what they said. I watched a pigeon pecking some old pizza right next to the man’s shiny shoes. I didn’t know how I would get home on my own.
The second lady crouched down in front of me, and held my hands. She looked right into my face and said, ‘Hello sweetheart, what’s your name then?’
She was talking in that silly baby voice that some grown ups do with little kids. Because I’m so small, people don’t think I’m ten. ‘Amy Rose Simmonds,’ I told her.
‘Where did your Mummy go?’ she asked, in the same stupid voice. I normally hate that voice, but this time it just made me feel sad, and I started to cry.
The lady tried to hug me. She squeezed too hard, and her grey hair tickled my face. I didn’t like it, so I pushed her away.
‘Take her in the changing rooms,’ said the tall man. ‘I’ll go and call them from my office.’
I let the lady hold my hand and we went back into the shop. She sat me on the soft seat in the changing room, and swished the curtain across. When I stopped crying she gave me a tissue, and asked me what had happened.
‘Mum ran away,’ I said. ‘She told me to run too, but I tripped over.’
‘Was Mummy running because she took those dresses?’ the lady asked.
I didn’t want Mum to be in trouble so I didn’t say anything.
The lady didn’t ask any more questions. She just looked sad. I wouldn’t look at her, but I could see her face in the big mirror next to me. She stuck her head round the curtain to talk to someone. There was a broken coat hanger on the floor, and the red plastic tag had fallen off it. I picked the tag up. It looked a bit like the playbeads we used to thread on string, when I was little and Mum was still happy.
I wondered if Mum was going to be angry with me.
‘Come on then, Amy,’ the lady said. ‘They’re here.’
For a second I thought she meant Mum, but as she pulled the curtain back I saw two police ladies in the shop. I hid the red bead in my pocket, and followed her out.